Tis the season for merriment and there’s no destination merrier than Denver during the holidays. I’m not a jolly person by nature, but I do love the Mile High City at this festive time of year and my husband and I make a point to visit at least once during the holidays.
Last year, we decided to spend a holiday weekend in the city to bask in the spirit of the season. The result was a cornucopia of fantastic delights that included oyster eating, German dancing and Christmas carols. Denver does this jubilant season really well. Here’s a guide to a memorable Mile High holiday.
Denver Dresses Up for the Holidays
Denver dresses up for the event and it’s not just the famous lights of the City & County Building that will have visitors in awe. Denver’s Union Station lights up in red and green to greet guests arriving by train, automobile or foot. It’s the perfect place to stop for a bit of holiday cheer and some excellent oysters at Stoic & Genuine, the station’s fantastic seafood restaurant.
Union Station’s Grand Hall features a Christmas tree that towers above the throngs of people who come to catch a train, do a little work or grab a drink at the Terminal Bar. The station has become a gathering place for more than just travelers and the space hosts meetings and remote workers who want to get out of their apartments for the day.
A Posh Stay for the Show
Le Méridien, which is relatively new to the Denver hotel scene, is modern and yet comfortable. Its location at 1475 California St. makes it ideal for a holiday excursion downtown. It’s less than a block from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA), which has an array of shows and music on stage year-round but is especially exciting during the holidays. This year, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” will be at the Buell December 5-15, and “A Christmas Carol” is always at Stage Theater during the holidays. For the extensive list of plays available, go to www.DenverCenter.org.
The Colorado Symphony plays at Boettcher Concert Hall at the DCPA. The holiday lineup includes “A Classic Christmas,” which runs the first full weekend of December and is followed by “Ten Tenors,” “A Colorado Christmas,” “Celtic Women: The Best Christmas Tour” and more. All the Colorado Symphony events can be found at www.ColoradoSymphony.org.
Like many downtown hotels, Le Méridien has a town car that guests can utilize to get around downtown and if it’s out and about, Uber, Lyft and pedicabs are readily available. Other amenities at Le Méridien include a rooftop bar with sweeping views of the city, and Corinne, a restaurant with a delightful brunch.
Le Méridien is also home to The Lobbyist, a lobby bar that serves up sweet treats and scrumptious coffee drinks in the morning. This is one of many Denver hotels that offer specials to Colorado residents, so locals should ask about a discount.
Shop, Eat & Drink at the Christkindl Market
A holiday highlight in downtown Denver is the Christkindl Market. The market at 1515 Arapahoe Street on the 16th Street Mall is just a stone’s throw from the ice rink at Skyline Park. Combining the two things makes for a festive day in Denver.
Christkindl Market is a reproduction of a German Christmas Market. It offers unique shopping, good eats and an entertainment tent with performers such as German bands and German dancers. It is free, but bring cash for food and drinks.
The market is where to find a gift for everyone on the list including handmade lace for grandma and candy for the kids. Many of the wares here are made by hand and many things come from abroad such as Christmas ornaments from Germany and nesting dolls from Russia.
The market has become wildly popular and is crowded on the weekends, and visiting during the weekday or on a weeknight is preferable. It runs seven days a week from November 16 through December 23 with special events occurring throughout that time. Find the market online at www.ChristkindlMarketDenver.com.
Afternoon Tea like a Queen
A holiday tradition with many Colorado families is afternoon tea at The Brown Palace. Despite being offered at multiple times, it books up quickly during November and December, and if tea is not available, Ellington’s at The Brown Palace does a brunch to remember. A stay at The Brown Palace and a meal at Ellington’s is a bucket-list activity for many Coloradans.
The two-mile parade route in Downtown Denver is the stage for Colorado’s brightest holiday tradition. The free holiday spectacular features marching bands, ornate floats, and, of course, a special appearance by a visitor from the North Pole! Hot chocolate and ear-muffs are encouraged. Event takes place at Civic Center Park with grandstand seating by the City & County Building.
- Friday, November 30 at 8 p.m.
- Saturday, December 1 at 6 p.m
The Brown Palace dresses up beautifully for the season, and lovers of high-class nightlife should step into Ship Tavern for a drink. The ambiance of this old-world, historic tavern is charming, and on some nights you will find a pianist playing Christmas tunes in a corner. It’s the perfect nightcap to any Denver holiday outing.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
The highlight of our holiday weekend last year was a visit to Charlie Brown’s Bar & Grill. It had been years since we’d stopped at this Denver icon and we felt overdue for a visit. It’s not only Denver’s oldest piano bar—famous celebrities have sipped a cocktail at this joint.
At 7 p.m., we managed to get two seats at the bar, just a few yards away from the pianist who was already surrounded by admirers. The story about Bill Murray having stopped at Charlie Brown’s and singing to the guests have been greatly exaggerated over the years, but Murray has been in, as has Jack Kerouac. After all, Charlie Brown’s has been around since the end of Prohibition and has hosted a variety of interesting characters over the years. If the bartender is in the right mood he’ll be a wealth of stories.
The food here has a good reputation and we were not disappointed with the delicious Greek pizza.
There are also two happy hours, making this bar a stop for everyone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
During the holidays at Charlie Brown’s, guests will be treated to Christmas tunes played by the pianist. As is standard here, the crowd is invited to sing along and sing they do. There’s nothing quite like a full bar singing “White Christmas” in unison. Even during the holidays the piano player mixes it up a bit and will play the occasional piano bar standby such as “Piano Man” and “Brown Eyed Girl”.
The world needs more of this; people of all walks of life singing happy songs together. On the December evening that we visited Charlie Brown’s, no one asked anyone who they’d voted for or what they thought of the latest political scandal. Instead, everyone was singing and there wasn’t a frown in the house. That’s the magic of Charlie Brown’s. That’s the magic of the holidays in Denver.